What’s wonderful is to read the different translations – some done in 1600 and some in 1900 – of the same passage. It’s fascinating to watch the same tale repeated in such a different way by two different centuries.
Most people – and particularly people whose lives have nothing to do with books at all – are intrigued by the idea that somebody wants to listen to them and get it right.
If you take the contempt some Americans have for yuppies and multiply it by 10 you might come close to understanding their attitude towards the City, as they call it – London, the people of the south.
I’ve always been struck by how unsuspicious people are in general, if you tell them what you’re about.
The government is shutting down the coal industry, they say it’s cheaper to draw nuclear power off the French grid and cheaper to buy coal from Colombia.
I have another Russian idea, too, with a place and a period, so I guess I have enough to keep me busy for quite some time, especially considering that I’m such a slow writer.
Then years back, when I moved to California, I happened to see a book about fashions of 19th-century Victorian England, only four pages of which was devoted to the dress of the working class.
I’ve got a book of poetry by the bed, one of these big collections that goes back to the Greeks and Romans.
But at the same time I went down into the mines with working miners who are still young men, younger than I am, who are aware that their working life is coming to an end and they feel suddenly cut off.
There is a huge antipathy in England between the north and the south, the working class and the owning class.
Then there was the whole concept of coal mining, which is a culture unto itself, the most dangerous occupation in the world, and which draws and develops a certain kind of man.